In person DeMarcus Ware has the height and build of a professional athlete, but his carefree demeanor doesn’t exactly give off the vibe of a ferocious football player. When I saw Ware at the Jason Witten ProCamp, it wasn’t entirely the fact that he was a Dallas Cowboy that struck me, it was the way he interacted with the kids that caught my attention. Spend five minutes with him and his infectious smile; see if you don’t walk away with a different attitude. To a fan, he is the ultimate defender when it comes to the outside linebacker position. He gives it everything he has when he steps on the turf. But I would bet money that he lives his life that way, as well.
In Ware’s position, out of 273 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 23 are linebackers. A handful of the greatest include: Dick Butkus, Jack Ham, Rickey Jackson, Mike Singletary, Derrick Thomas, and Lawrence Taylor. These players changed the game, on the field, and many made contributions, both good and bad, off the field.
Butkus was one of the best linebackers in history, only playing 9 seasons for the Chicago Bears. He quit way before his time due to a knee injury. After retiring, he created The Butkus Foundation which presents an award each year to an outstanding high school, college, or professional linebacker who chooses to play clean, avoiding steroids. He was a 8-time Pro-Bowler, led the Chicago Bears in tackles, interceptions, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries. To this day, he stays involved with charitable organizations, coaches a high school team, and celebrates nearly 50 years of marriage to his high school sweetheart.
"When a player receives the Butkus Award he will know two things. First, he is recognized as the best of the best linebackers in America. Second, and in the long run most important, he will understand that this recognition brings a responsibility to serve others by giving back. Dick Butkus"
Another great Chicago Bear, Singletary played 12 seasons in the NFL where he reeked havoc on offenses around the league. Known for his intensity and helmet-breaking hits, he put in the work to prepare, and then gave it his all each and every game. Singletary was a 10-time Pro-Bowler, two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and a Super Bowl champion. After retiring from the NFL in 1992, a few years later, 2003, he joined the coaching staff of the Baltimore Ravens. While his head coaching career was short lived in San Francisco, he is currently the assistant head coach for the Minnesota Vikings. Singletary not only remained drug and alcohol free during his NFL career, he handled his money wisely. His work with kids and substance abuse treatment programs continue to this day. He married his college sweetheart and remains dedicated to her after 28 years.
"My desire [was] to be the best in football…. I believe God gave each and every one of us talent. I don’t want to cheat Him, and I don’t want to cheat myself or my family. Mike Singletary"
Nearly every BEST OF list, places New York Giants Taylor, or LT, as the #1 linebacker of all time and many list him as the greatest defender of all time. He completely changed the way offensives lined up and set formations. He was a menace to the game. Taylor was a 10-time Pro-Bowler, three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and a two-time Super Bowl champion. After 13 seasons, Taylor ended his career with 1,088 tackles, 132.5 sacks, nine interceptions, 134 return yards, two touchdowns, 33 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries, and 34 fumble return yards. While he made a name for himself in the game of football, away from the game, he was even more of a menace. Drugs, financial woes, a failed company, three marriages, multiple arrests, lying to the NFL about drug use; all of these tarnished his accomplishments on the football field.
"I had everything working my way, strong as a bull. And still I ignored the rules of the game of life. Lawrence Taylor"
After reading many articles about these defenders, it brought me back to DeMarcus Ware and what I saw that Saturday morning. Only in his eighth year, he is one of the best linebackers in the league. Since his debut in 2005, his stats include 480 tackles, 99.5 sacks, 27 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, and 3 return touchdowns. He was ranked the 12th best NFL player in 2011 and expected to be top 10 this year. Ware is loved by Dallas Cowboy fans; his jersey #94 is one of the top sellers. Like some of his predecessors, he married his high school sweetheart in 2005. Ware is involved with the Oak Cliff Boys and Girls Club, The Ultimate Dallas Cowboys Tailgate Party, the Welcome Home a Hero program, youth camps, The Salvation Army, and several other charitable organizations around DFW.
In Ware’s young life and career, he has already done so many good things for the community. Kids of all ages look up to him as a hero and role model. I believe all athletes have a responsibility to perform on the field, they are paid enough to do so, but they also have a duty to act like responsible adults in life. Butkus, Singletary, and Ware all have made us proud to cheer them on; Taylor, not so much. So, cheers to you, Mr. DeMarcus Ware. Continue making us proud to call you a Cowboy.